The first one now, will be later be last? Photo:Getty
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Forget Labour and the SNP - it's Cameron's coalition that is unpopular

The arguments about popular support are a smokescreen. It's Cameron's bloc, backed by Ukip and the DUP, that is the most unpopular.

If David Cameron ends up as Prime Minister after the General Election it will likely be at the helm of one of the most unpopular governments ever. A recent YouGov poll  shows that David Cameron’s most likely route to power is also the route most hated by the public. Two thirds of voters are opposed to a Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Ukip and DUP grouping, which looks like the only road David Cameron has left to achieving a majority in the House of Commons.

As the election results come in early on Friday morning, Tory and Labour strategists won’t just be tallying up their own seats. There will also be boards in their offices for potential partners, where they will be pinning up the constituencies controlled by parties that might be persuaded to vote through their Queen’s speech.

The polls have been deadlocked for months. No matter what they call it – a coalition, confidence and supply or informal deal – any potential Prime Minister will need the votes of other parties to pass a Queen’s speech, even if they then go on to govern with a minority in the House of Commons. And it looks like the only way David Cameron can come close to getting a majority of the House will be if together the Tories, Lib Dems, Ukip and DUP can get the 323 seats they need to pass a Queen’s speech.

But to make Cameron’s unlikely cabal come together, not only will the parties all have to outperform current predictions (YouGov’s prediction today puts them at a combined 320 seats, three short of a working majority) but they will have to go directly against the grain of public opinion. Of all of the different groupings polled by YouGov, the grouping most likely to keep David Cameron in Downing Street is the least popular, with an approval rating of minus 49.

To put this into perspective, this potential governing group has less support than Jim Callaghan’s government did in December 1976, when he was forced to deliver a Greek-style package of public spending cuts in return for an International Monetary Fund bailout. It is also considerably more unpopular than a Labour and SNP grouping, which comes in with a net approval rating of minus 37.

This public verdict is a disaster for David Cameron, who has been leading a Conservative Party offensive on what a ‘coalition of chaos’ involving Labour and the SNP might mean for Britain. The reality is that the British public are more worried about what Cameron’s cabal could do to the country.

It will not be long after the polls close on Thursday evening before rhetoric from party spokespeople changes from “still hoping for a majority” to “getting the best deal for the British public”. And let’s be honest, today’s polls show that no deal will be popular. But one thing is for sure – a Cameron-led cabal of Tories, Ukip, Lib Dems, and the DUP won’t just have a tough time agreeing amongst themselves, they will face a far tougher time from the British public. Bringing such a grouping together will be the very last thing the public wants.

 

Cameron Tait is Senior Researcher at the Fabian Society. He tweets at @cameronrjtait.

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The dog at the end of the lead may be small, but in fact what I’m walking is a hound of love

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel.

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel. I seem to have become a temporary co-owner of an enthusiastic Chorkie. A Chorkie, in case you’re not quite up to speed with your canine crossbreeds, is a mixture of a chihuahua and a Yorkshire Terrier, and while my friend K— busies herself elsewhere I am looking after this hound.

This falls squarely into the category of Things I Never Thought I’d Do. I’m a cat person, taking my cue from their idleness, cruelty and beauty. Dogs, with their loyalty, their enthusiasm and their barking, are all a little too much for me, even after the first drink of the day. But the dog is here, and I am in loco parentis, and it is up to me to make sure that she is looked after and entertained, and that there is no repetition of the unfortunate accident that occurred outside my housemate’s room, and which needed several tissues and a little poo baggie to make good.

As it is, the dog thinks I am the bee’s knees. To give you an idea of how beeskneesian it finds me, it is licking my feet as I write. “All right,” I feel like saying to her, “you don’t have to go that far.”

But it’s quite nice to be worshipped like this, I have decided. She has also fallen in love with the Hovel, and literally writhes with delight at the stinky cushions on the sofa. Named after Trude Fleischmann, the lesbian erotic photographer of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, she has decided, with admirable open-mindedness, that I am the Leader of the Pack. When I take the lead, K— gets a little vexed.

“She’s walking on a loose lead, with you,” K— says. “She never does that when I’m walking her.” I don’t even know what that means, until I have a think and work it out.

“She’s also walking to heel with you,” K— adds, and once again I have to join a couple of mental dots before the mists part. It would appear that when it comes to dogs, I have a natural competence and authority, qualities I had never, not even in my most deranged flights of self-love, considered myself to possess in any measurable quantity at all.

And golly, does having a dog change the relationship the British urban flâneur has with the rest of society. The British, especially those living south of Watford, and above all those in London, do not recognise other people’s existence unless they want to buy something off them or stop them standing on the left of the sodding escalator, you idiot. This all changes when you have a dog with you. You are now fair game for any dog-fancier to come up to you and ask the most personal questions about the dog’s history and genealogy. They don’t even have to have a dog of their own; but if you do, you are obliged by law to stop and exchange dog facts.

My knowledge of dog facts is scant, extending not much further beyond them having a leg at each corner and chasing squirrels, so I leave the talking to K—, who, being a friendly sort who could probably talk dog all day long if pressed, is quite happy to do that. I look meanwhile in a kind of blank wonder at whichever brand of dog we’ve just encountered, and marvel not only at the incredible diversity of dog that abounds in the world, but at a realisation that had hitherto escaped me: almost half of London seems to have one.

And here’s the really interesting thing. When I have the leash, the city looks at me another way. And, specifically, the young women of the city. Having reached the age when one ceases to be visible to any member of the opposite sex under 30, I find, all of a sudden, that I exist again. Women of improbable beauty look at Trude, who looks far more Yorkie than chihuahua, apart from when she does that thing with the ears, and then look at me, and smile unguardedly and unironically, signalling to me that they have decided I am a Good Thing and would, were their schedules not preventing them, like to chat and get to know me and the dog a bit better.

I wonder at first if I am imagining this. I mention it to K—.

“Oh yes,” she says, “it’s a thing. My friend P-J regularly borrows her when he wants to get laid. He reckons he’s had about 12 shags thanks to her in the last six months. The problems only arise when they come back again and notice the dog isn’t there.”

I do the maths. Twelve in six months! That’s one a fortnight. An idea begins to form in my mind. I suppose you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what it is. But no. I couldn’t. Could I?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism